Two army officers killed in Siachen bunker fire (Second Lead)

July 22nd, 2011 - 4:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) An army major and a lieutenant were burned to death and four soldiers were injured in a fire at their bunker on the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield where the temperature dips to minus 50 degrees Celsius in winter.

The officers and men were staying in fibreglass shelters in the glacier in Jammu and Kashmir when the fire broke out Thursday morning, army sources said Friday. The shelter was completely gutted, they said, noting that a court of inquiry had been ordered.

The identity of the two deceased officers and the injured soldiers are being withheld by the army till it informs their next of kin, they said.

Siachen is a 70-km long glacier where the guns of India and Pakistan stopped booming since November 2003 following a ceasefire. It has claimed more lives of army men from both India and Pakistan due to inhospitable weather than artillery shelling.

The glacier lies between Saltoro Ridge line to the west and the main Karakoram range to the east in the northern-most tip of the Ladakh region.

The Siachen glacier’s icy heights range from 16,000 to 22,000 feet.

India launched Operation Meghdoot and took control of Siachen in April 1984 by pre-empting the Pakistan army’s Operation Ababeel aimed at clandestinely occupying the glacier.

India and Pakistan have cumulatively deployed nearly 10,000 troops along the 110-km-long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) on the Siachen Glacier. India wants Pakistan to authenticate the AGPL before any demilitarisation of Siachen can begin.

The dispute has reportedly cost both India and Pakistan over $10 billion in cumulative budgetary allocations and over 2,300 casualties, a majority due to the inhospitable weather.

Talks for resolving the dispute began in 1985 after discussions between then Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Pakistani president Gen Zia-ul-Haq.

The 12th round of the talks on the dispute were held in New Delhi May 30 and 31 this year between the defence secretaries of the two nations.

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